Mixed Sales for Asian Galleries at Art Basel, Asian Collectors Lacking

Though they remain under-represented amid the 300 or so galleries that are participating in Art Basel 2013, the 15 Asian galleries here have made their presence felt with eye-catching booth presentations. The same could not be said of collectors from Asia, who were seen in far greater numbers in 2012 than this year.

“There are definitely fewer Chinese buyers this year, though we’ve seen some collectors from Taiwan and Hong Kong,” noted Vitamin Creative Space director Zhang Wei, echoing comments made by several other Asian gallerists. “I think maybe it’s because of Art Basel in Hong Kong. They just don’t need to come to Europe anymore,” she added.

As a result, how well galleries have done in the first important days of the fair, when big pocket collectors are in town, seemed to depend on whether the art they had brought appealed to Western collectors.

Japan gallery ShugoArt, which had a very Asian-centric offering with works by Naofumi Maruyama and Kazuma Taguchi, amongst others, reported sales as “very slow,” though an installation work by Hong Kong artist Lee Kit, who is currently participating in the Venice Biennale, sold for €20,000. Korean gallery PKM, which brought a more international offering with works by Claes Oldenburg, Olafur Eliasson and Lee Bul, reported positive sales, with a chandelier installation by Lee selling quickly on the first day open to VVIPs for $180,000.

Gevenevieve Chua at STPI

Koyanagi gallery of Japan reported having had a very good run, selling “much better than in Art Basel in Hong Kong.” Though the gallery mainly brought works by Asian artists, director Kaori Hashigushi attributed the gallery’s sales’ success – it sold pieces from each of its 15 artists – to the choice of more conceptual and minimalist art that appeals more to the Western collectors: all the buyers were from Europe.

“Traditionally Asian galleries don’t so as well here, because the public, though very well-educated, still doesn’t know much about Asian art. But what is very encouraging is that we’ve got a lot of interest and curiosity asking questions about the artists. They want to know, but they are still at the discovering phase,” noted Emi Eu, director of Singapore Tyler Print Institute, which is participating for the first time in Art Basel.

“For us it’s an investment over the long term to build our profile. I have no doubt that Art Basel can become the most important fair for us, but there is some education needed, too. At this stage they don’t know us really,” Eu added.

Galleries took different approaches, either presenting multiple artists as in the case of STPI, which has works by Genevieve Chua, Heman Chong, Ho Tzu Nyen, Wu Shanzhuan and Inga S. Thorsdottir, and Korean artist Haegue Yang, while another newcomer to the fair, Silverlens decided to put the spotlight on only one artist, Maria Taniguchi, showing one of her large black painting and a video installaion.

ShanghArt of China dedicated most of its booth to a spectacular installation by Hangzhou-based artist Sun Xun that includes a giant peacock made of paper, while GallerySKE of Bangladesh is offering an installation by Indian artist Sudarshan Shetty, which comprises hand carved wooden reliefs interpreting a line of poetry from the 13th century and reproductions of terracotta artifacts that aims to flatten historical specificity.

While there was an obvious lack of Southeast Asian artists at the fair, some international galleries had brought works by Asian stars like Takashi Murakami and Yayoi Kusama, and these sold well.

As of Thursday, David Zwirner of New York had sold Kusama’s Infinity-Nets AOWFA (2013) for $320,000, while Blum & Poe of Los Angeles had sold a piece by Yoshitomo Nara, two by Murakami, along with works by Zhu Jinshi, Nobuo Sekine, Kishio Suga, and Susumu Koshimizu.

Pace gallery had also sold three Naras (ranging from $175,009 to 500,000), while Lisson Gallery had sold a work by Anish Kapoor for £700,000.As first published on sea.blouinartinfo.com